The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries

by Adolph (von) Harnack
translated and edited by James Moffatt
Second, enlarged and revised English edition;
London: Williams and Norgate / New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1908 (from the 2nd German edition).
Theological Translation Library, volumes 19-20

From the German, Die Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten (1902, revised 1906, 1915, and finally 1924)

[[Book 4, Chapter 3, section 3 (page 125 = 2nd German ed p. 102) (scanned and proofed, Elana Newberger 4/2004), edited RAK 5/2004; checked by Francisco Lameiro 2/2005; Greek added,  some ETs still needed]]



In accordance with its tendency towards universal dominion, Christianity streamed from Jerusalem as far as Antioch (Acts 11.), the greatest city of the East and the third city\2/ in the Roman empire, ere a few years had passed over its head. It was in Antioch that it got its name, which in all probability was originally a nickname;\3/ for Antioch was a city of nicknames [[126]] and of low-class literature.\4/ Here the first Gentile Christian community grew up; for it was adherents of Jesus drawn from paganism who were called "Christians" (cp. vol. 1. pp. 411 f.). Here Barnabas labored. Here the great apostle Paul found his sphere of action for some years, and ere long the Christian community became so important, endowed with such a vigorous self-consciousness and such independent activity, that its repute rivalled that of the Jerusalem church itself.\5/ Between the churches of Jerusalem and Antioch the cardinal question of the Gentile Christians was debated; it was the church of Antioch-mentioned along with Syria and Cilicia in Acts 15.23, and the only city noted in this connection-which took the most decided step forward in the history of the gospel; and as early as the second century it gave further expression to its church-consciousness by designating the apostle Peter as its first bishop-although, to judge from Gal. 2.11 f., it was no glorious role that he had played in Antioch.\6/ One of its churches was traced back to the apostolic age (see above, p. 85).

\1/ Cp. Map 4.-Marquardt., op. cit. 1. pp. 324 f.; Mommsen, 5, pp. 446 f. (Eng. trans., 2.120 f.).

\2/ So, from Josephus to the author of the Chron. Paschale. We need only allude to the incomparable position of Antioch in the East.

\3/ According to Theophilus, ad Autol., 1.12, the pagans in Antioch even as late as 180 C.E. took the name "Christian" as a term of ridicule ( περὶ τοῦ σε καταγελᾶν μου, καλοῦντά με χριστιανόν, οὐκ οἶδας ὃ λέγεις).

\4/ We hear of this in the reign of Julian.

\5/ In this connection special moment attaches to Acts 11.27 f. (where the wealthier church of Antioch supports the brethren in Judæa), and further, to Acts 13.1 f.: Ἦσαν δὲ ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ κατὰ τὴν οὖσαν ἐκκλησίαν προφῆται καὶ διδάσκαλοι ὅ τε Βαρναβᾶς καὶ Συμεὼν ὁ καλούμενος Νίγερ, καὶ Λούκιος ὁ Κυρηναῖος, Μαναήν τε Ἡρῴδου τοῦ τετραάρχου σύντροφος καὶ Σαῦλος.  (2.)  λειτουργούντων δὲ αὐτῶν τῷ κυρίῳ καὶ νηστευόντων εἶπεν τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον, Ἀφορίσατε δή μοι τὸν Βαρναβᾶν καὶ Σαῦλον εἰς τὸ ἔργον, κ.τ.λ.  At the very outset a certain Nicolaus, προσήλυτος Ἀντιοχεύς (a proselyte from Antioch), appears as a guardian of the poor in Jerusalem (Acts 6.6).

\6/ As also by the device of placing a great apostolic synod at Antioch (see the Excursus, in the first edition of this work, to Chap. 5, Book 1). The great importance of Antioch is well brought out by Knopf in his Nachapost. Zeitalter, pp. 50 f. -- We have frequent evidence that church music spread from Antioch throughout the whole church. Socrates (6.8) notices the legend that Ignatius the local bishop learned responsive chanting from the angels.

We know next to nothing of the history of Christianity in Cœle-Syria during the first three centuries,\7/ but a succession of data is available for Antioch itself. We possess, for example, the list of the Antiochene episcopate, and the very names [[127]] are instructive.\8/ Euodius, Ignatius, Heron, Cornelius, Eros, Theophilus, Maximinus, Serapion, Asclepiades, Philetus, Zebinus, Babylas, Fabius, Demetrianus, Paulus, Domnus, Timaeus, Cyrillus, Tyrannus -- the large majority of these names are Greek, and Greek was the language of the church. Its fame is established by Ignatius, after Paul. Several features (though they are not many) in the contemporary situation of the church at Antioch can be made out from the epistles of Ignatius, who proudly terms it "the church of Syria." In Smyrn. 11.2, he says that after the persecution it had regained its proper size (ἴδιον μέγεθος). The claim which he advances, under cover of an exaggerated modesty, to instruct foreign churches probably sprang, not simply from his personal attainments as a confessor, but also from the ecclesiastical and commanding position of the city of which he was bishop. The central position of the church is indicated by the fact that all the Asiatic churches sent envoys to congratulate the church of Antioch upon its recovery. It now occupied the place once held by Jerusalem.

\7/ We know that a seat, or the seat, of the sect of the Elkesaites was at Apamea, whence the Elkesaite Alcibiades travelled to Rome (Hipp., Philos. 9.13). The Elkesaites, however, belong to the history of Jewish Christianity. They were not a sect of the Catholic church.

\8/ Cp. my Chronologie 1, pp. 208 f. and elsewhere.

In later times it was given out that Euodius, the predecessor of Ignatius, had also been an author. This is erroneous. The bishops Theophilus, Serapion, and Paulus,\9/ however, were authors (writing, like Ignatius, in Greek), as was the Antiochene presbyter Geminus (Jerome, de Vir. Ill. 64). There were also letters from Fabius. Famous schools of learning were held by the presbyter Malchion (Eus., H.E. 7.29), the presbyter Dorotheus (7.23), and above all by Lucian. The church of [[128]] Antioch also took part in the great general controversies, the Montanist, the Origenist (siding against Origen), the Novatian, the baptismal, and the Christological, and it maintained a vital intercourse with other churches. It mediated between the church at large, which was substantially Greek, and the Syriac East, just as the Roman church did between the former and the Latin-speaking West.\10/ Further, unless the evidence is deceptive, it was the church of Antioch which introduced into the cultus of Greek Christendom its strongly rhetorical element-an element of display and fantasy. Once more, it was in this church that the dynamic Christology received its most powerful statement; here Arianism arose; and here the ablest school of exegesis flourished. Thanks to the biblical scholarship of Lucian, the teacher of Arius, Antioch acquired a widespread importance for the development of exegesis and theology in the East (Arianism, the Antiochene school of exegesis, Nestorianism).

\9/ The Apology of pseudo-Melito (Otto's Corp. Apol. 9), composed about the beginning of the third century, was probably written in Syriac originally (and in Cœle-Syria), but it is the only Syriac writing which can be named in this connection (cp. my Chronologie 1, pp. 522 f.; 2, pp. 129 f.). Investigations into the Acts of Thomas have not yet advanced far enough to enable us to arrive at any certain decision upon the question whether they belong to the province of Edessa or to that of Western Syria. The great probability is, however, that they were composed in Syriac, and that they belong (cp. my Litt. Gesch. 1, pp. 545 f.; 2.2, pp. 175 f.) to Edessa -- in fact, to the circle of that great Eastern missionary and teacher, Bardesanes; cp. Nöldeke in Lipsius' Apokr. Apostelgeschichten 2.2, pp. 423 f., and Burkitt in the Journal of Theological Studies 1, pp. 280 f. The Syriac version of the gospels also belongs to Edessa, rather than to Western Syria. The gnostic Saturninus (Satornil) also belonged to Antioch (cp. Iren., 1.24.1), and other gnostic sects and schools (Ophites, etc.) originated in Syria. Their language was Greek, but interspersed with many Semitic loan-words.

\10/ It is instructive to note how Cornelius of Rome plumes himself upon the greatness of Rome, in writing to Fabius of Antioch (Eus., H.E., 6.43). He had reason to do so, in face of Antioch's prestige.

The central position of the church is reflected in the great synods held at Antioch from the middle of the third century onwards. Dionysius of Alexandria (Eus., H.E. 6.46) wrote to Cornelius of Rome that he had been invited to a synod at Antioch (251 C.E.) upon the baptism of heretics, by Helenus of Tyre and the other bishops of the country, as well as by Firmilian of Cappadocia and Theoktistus, a Palestinian bishop (of Cæsarea). The outcome of the synod is described by him in a letter to Stephen of Rome (ibid. 7.5): "Kow that all the churches of the East, and even beyond it, which previously were divided, have once more become united. All over, the bishops are harmonious and unanimous, greatly delighted at the unexpected restoration of peace among the churches." He then proceeds to enumerate the bishops of Antioch, Cæsarea, Ælia, Tyre, Laodicea, Tarsus, "and all the churches of Cilicia, besides Firmilian and all Cappadocia-for, to avoid making my letter too long, I have merely named the most prominent bishops. Add all Syria and Arabia,….with Mesopotamia, Pontus, and Bithynia." Setting aside the two last-named provinces, we may [[129]] say that this forms a list of the provinces over which the influence of Antioch normally extended.\11/ To the last great synod at Antioch against Paulus, the Antiochene bishop, no fewer than seventy or eighty bishops gathered from all the provinces, [[130]] from Pontus to Egypt;.\12/ for, it must be remembered, the Christological crisis, in which their metropolitan was the "heretic" of the hour, was of supreme moment to the church Unfortunately, we know nothing of the seats of these bishops.\13/

\11/ This also serves to explain the well-known passage in the sixth canon of Nicæa: ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ κατὰ Ἀντιόχειαν καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἄλλαις ἐπαρχίαις τὰ πρεσβεῖα σώζεσθαι ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις  ("Likewise with regard to Antioch and throughout the other provinces, the due prerogatives are to be secured for the churches"). This certainly refers to a kind of super-metropolitan authority, not simply to the metropolitan constitution (in Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch). The first sign of the metropolitan constitution emerges at Antioch, in relation to Syria (cp. Lübeck's Reichseinteilung und kirchliche Hierarchie, pp. 42 f.), and it is there also that we come upon the beginnings of the super-metropolitan authority (prior to Diocletian). This is established by one fact after another. The bishops of the "East" were conscious of forming, within the catholic church, a powerful group by themselves, with a unity of their own, centring in Antioch. There was a diocese of "the East" within the church long before the political division arose. (1) The great synods of Antioch were attended by bishops from many provinces, i.e., of the "East" in general (excluding proconsular Asia and Egypt: bishops did come from the later diocese of Pontus, but the Alexandrian bishop Dionysius only seems to have been invited out of regard for his high personal reputation). Even when there was reason to make common cause against the bishop of Antioch at a synod, Antioch was chosen as the meeting-place; cp. the cases of Fabius and Paul of Samosata. (2) When Antioch had to be passed over, and another city selected as the place of meeting, the bishop of Antioch still presided over the Synod, as at Ancyra and Neo-Cæsarea in the beginning of the fourth century. (Lübeck's contention, pp. 104 f., that the pre-eminence of Antioch grew up gradually out of the synodal custom, seems to me to confuse cause and effect. The starting-point of it certainly lay in the prestige of the city as the capital of what was an exceptionally large province at the beginning of the imperial period, as well as in the primitive importance of the local church. It is surprising that Antioch does not come forward at the Paschal controversy of 190 C.E., when the separate Eastern provinces act quite independently.) (3) According to reliable traditions, the first catholic bishop of Edessa was ordained by Serapion, the bishop of Antioch. (4) The bishop of Antioch exercised supervision over Rhossus in Cilicia at the opening of the third century, though Cilicia had been an independent province since Hadrian (Eus., H.E., 6.12). (5) He had also certain rights in connection with the mission and the episcopate in mission-districts like Persia, Armenia, and Georgia.-- The actual prerogatives (πρεσβεῖα) of the Antiochene bishop were distinct from those of the bishops of Alexandria and Rome. The facts of the case prove this. While the latter had the right of episcopal ordination in several provinces, all that can be shown to have been possessed by the Antiochene bishop was the right of ordaining the metropolitans of the Eastern provinces (and even this is not quite certain), the privilege of summoning Eastern synods, and the exercise of a certain control over then, together with the supervision of the propaganda (as missionary archbishop). For a true account of these functions, cp. Lübeck, pp. 134 f. The distinctive and superior privileges of the Antiochene bishop, over against the metropolitans, must have consisted in practice [[130b]] and custom rather than in definite, prescribed functions; in this respect he differed from the bishops of Rome and Alexandria. Hence, in the sixth canon of Nicæa Rome is bracketed with Alexandria, not with Antioch; it is with reference to Antioch that the general term πρεσβεῖα is employed.

\12/ Eusebius (H.E., 7.28) speaks of μύριοι ("thousands"), Athanasius gives seventy (de Synod. 43), and Hilarius (de Synod. 86), eighty bishops. Basilius Diaconus (fifth century) reckons a hundred and eighty.

\13/ The document issued by the Antiochene synod to the bishops of Rome and Alexandria as well as to the whole church (Eus., H.E. 7.30) mentions, in its address, the names of Helenus (Tarsus), Hymenæus (Jerusalem), Theophilus (? perhaps Tyre), Theoteknus (Cæsarea), Maximus (Bostra), Proclus (?), Nicomas (?), Ælianus (?), Paulus (?), Bolanus (?), Protogenes (?), Hierax (?), Eutychius (?), Theodorus (?), Malchion (presbyter of Antioch), and Lucius (probably also a presbyter of Antioch). Unfortunately, the bishoprics of most are unknown, nor do we know why these alone are mentioned. Did the Eastern metropolitans, with some presbyters of Antioch, name themselves alone as the senders of the document? Photius thinks these were only a few prelates who ratified the deposition; he mentions twelve.

Although the information which we possess about Paul at Antioch in the role of bishop comes from a hostile pen, it throws light on the size and "secularism" of the local Christian community in the second half of the third century (Eus., H.E. 7.30).\14/ "At an earlier period he was poor and a beggar. He neither inherited any means from his parents, nor did he make any money by any craft or trade whatever; yet he is now in possession of extravagant wealth, thanks to his iniquitous transactions, his acts of sacrilege, and his extortionate demands upon the brethren. For he officiously recommends himself to people who are wronged, promising to help them for a consideration. Yet all he does is to cheat them, making a profit for himself, without any service in return, out of litigants who are quite ready to pay money in order to get quit of a troublesome [[131]] business. Thus he treats piety as a means of making some profit. He is haughty and puffed up; he is invested with secular dignities; he would rather be called 'ducenarius' [an imperial procurator of the second rank] than 'bishop'; he strides ostentatiously up and down the public squares, reading or dictating letters publicly in the middle of his walk, and having a numerous retinue who escort him in front and behind. Thus, owing to his arrogance and insolence, our faith wins ill will and hatred from the public. In the assemblies of the church his inordinate ambition and vainglorious pride make him behave in an inexplicable fashion, and thus he captivates the minds of simple folks till they actually admire him. He has a platform and a high throne erected for himself, unlike a disciple of Christ. Also, like secular officials, he has his private cabinet (secretum). He strikes his hand upon his thigh, stamps with his feet upon the platform, and inveighs with insolent insults against those who, instead of breaking out in applause of himself, or waving their handkerchiefs like the audience in a theatre, or shouting aloud and jumping like the men and women of his own company who behave in this indecent fashion, prefer to listen to him reverently and quietly as befits the house of God. Dead expositors of the word of God are assailed in public with coarse and vulgar taunts, while the speaker exalts himself in swelling terms as if he were a sophist or juggler and not a bishop. Hymns in praise of our Lord Jesus Christ he puts a stop to, as too recently composed by modern men; whereas he has songs sung to his own praise and glory by women in the public congregation on the opening day of the paschal feast, songs which might well make any audience shudder. Similar courses are advocated, at his instigation, by the bishops of neighboring localities and towns who fawn upon him, as well as by the priests in their addresses to the people. Thus he will not acknowledge, with us, that the Son of God has come down from heaven…..Jesus, he says, is from below. Whereas those who sing hymns in his own honor and publicly praise him, assert that he himself has come down as an angel from heaven; and instead of checking such outbursts, the arrogant fellow listens when they are uttered. Furthermore, he has 'virgines subintroductæ' [[132]] of his own, 'lady companions,' as the people of Antioch call them. So have the priests and deacons in his company. Of this, as of all the rest of their pernicious errors, he is perfectly cognisant. But he connives at them, in order to attach the men to himself and prevent them, through fear of personal consequences, from daring to challenge his own unrighteous words and deeds…..Even if he should have committed no act of immorality [with regard to the 'virgines'], still he ought to have eschewed the suspicion of it…..He has indeed dismissed one such woman, but he still retains two in the bloom and beauty of their sex, takes them with him on his travels, and lives meanwhile in sumptuous and luxurious fashion. Such practices make everyone groan and lament in private. But no one dares to bring him to task, such is their dread of his authority and tyranny. Yet for such practices one would call him to account [i.e., not condemning him outright, nor conniving at his actions], if he still were a catholic and belonged to our own number."

\14/ According to later Oriental sources (cp. Westphal, Unters. über die Quellen und die Glaubwürdigkeit der Patriarchalchroniken des Mari ibn Sulaiman, etc., 1901, pp. 62 f.), Demetrianus, Paul's predecessor in the see of Antioch, was exiled to Persia. This tradition, which answers to the general situation (the city was sacked by the Persians in 260 C.E.) and has nothing against it, proves that about 260 C.E. both the church of Antioch and its bishop possessed some political weight. Labourt, however, questions its authenticity (Le Christianisme dans l'empire Perse, 1904, p. 19).

I have quoted this passage in extenso, as I consider it is extremely important evidence for the spread and the position of the church in Antioch at that period.\15/ The best-established feature in the whole description (for a large number of the malicious charges, which are a proof of Antiochene journalism, may be brushed aside) is that the bishop had by this time assumed, perhaps had had to assume, the customs and bearing of a high state-official. This feature brings out very clearly the development and importance of the local Christian community. Besides, the relations between Paul and the royal house of Palmyra (Syrian by race), so far as these are known or may be conjectured, show that Christianity already played a political role in Antioch.\16/ Furthermore, the authentic document [[133]] preserved by Eusebius tells us that Paul refused to admit his condemnation, nor would he evacuate his episcopal residence. Whereupon-Zenobia meanwhile having been conquered by Rome, and the collateral rule of the house of Palmyra having been overthrown in Egypt and throughout the East -- the matter was laid before the emperor Aurelian, who ordered (272 C.E.) the residence to be handed over to the bishop with whom the Christian bishops of Italy and Rome were in epistolary communion. This forms one conspicuous proof of the political significance attaching to the church of Antioch. The Antiochene bishop was to be a support of Roman power in the chief city of the East; such was the meaning of Aurelian's decision. It throws light on Constantine's policy of making bishops the pillars of his rule.

\15/ One of Paul's successors, Philogonius, was "caught up from the forum" (ἐκ μέσης τῆς ἀγορᾶς ἁρπασθείς, Chrys., t. 1,  p. 495) and made a bishop, at the beginning of the fourth century. He was evidently a jurist.

\16/ Paul's entrance on his episcopate at Antioch fell at the very period, and probably in the very year, when the Persians captured Antioch. As soon as the Persians retreated, Gallienus appointed Odænathus to a position of practically independent authority over Palmyra and the East. Paul must have understood admirably how to curry favour with this ruler and his queen Zenobia, for, in spite of his episcopal position, he was imperial procurator in Antioch.

It is impossible to draw up any statistical calculations with regard to the church about 320 C.E., but at any rate there were several churches in the city (Theod., H.E. 1.2),\17/ and if the local Christians really were in the majority in Julian's reign, their number must have been very large as early as the year 320. Diodorus and Chrysostom preached in what was substantially a Christian city, as the latter explicitly attests in several passages. He gives the number of the inhabitants (excluding slaves and children) at 200,000 (Hom. In Ignat. 4), the total of members belonging to the chief church being 100,000 (Hom. 85 [86], c. 4).\18/ Antioch in early days was always the stronghold of Eastern Christianity, and the local church was perfectly conscious of its vocation as the church of the metropolis. The horizon and effective power of the Antiochene bishop extended as far as Mesopotamia and Persia, Armenia and Georgia. He felt himself in duty bound to superintend the missions and the consolidation of the church [[134]] throughout these countries. The execution of this task led to the steady growth of certain rights, which were never formally defined, but which were exercised by the Antiochene bishop throughout the East. Similarly, he recognized his duties with regard to the defence of the church against heretics, who were fond of resorting to the East.\19/ It was from Antioch that the missionary impulse of Chrysostom proceeded, as well as the vigorous campaign against the heretics waged by the great exegetes, by Diodorus and Theodoret, and by Chrysostom and Nestorius.

\17/ He writes as follows: when the peace began Vitalius was bishop, "who built the church ἐν τῇ Παλαιᾷ which the tyrants had destroyed. Philogonius, his successor, completed the buildings" (ὃς καὶ τὴν ἐν τῇ Παλαιᾷ καταλυθεῖσαν ὑπὸ τῶν τυράννων ᾠκοδόμησεν ἐκκλησίαν· Φιλογόνιος δὲ μετὰ τοῦτον τὴν προεδρίαν λαβὼν τά τε λειπόμενα τῇ οἰκοδομίᾳ προστέθεικε). The words may also be understood to mean, of course, that ἡ ἐκκλησία ἐν τῇ Παλαιᾷ was the only local church.

\18/ Cp. Schultze (op. cit., 2. p. 263); Gibbon (The Decline and Fall, Germ. trans. by Sporschil, 2. p. 219) takes the 100,000 to represent the total of the Christians in Antioch itself.

\19/ This was the case with the Marcionites and several gnostic sects, as is shown by the works of Theodoret, who boasts (e.g., in Ep. 63.) that over a thousand Marcionites had been converted in his diocese alone, and also by the writings of later authors (even in Arabic).

Outside the gates of Antioch, that "fair city of the Greeks" (see Isaac of Antioch's Carmen 15, ed. Bickell, 1.294), Syriac was the language of the people; in fact it was spoken by the lower classes in Antioch itself (Nöldeke), and only in the upper classes of the Greek towns was it displaced by Greek. The Syriac spirit was wedded to Greek, however, even here, and remained the predominant factor in religious and in social life,\20/ although at first and indeed for long it did not look as if it would.\21/ Yet in this Syrian world, Christianity\22/ operated from [[135]] Edessa (see below) rather than from Antioch, unless we are wholly mistaken. The wide territory lying between these cities was consequently evangelized from two centres during the third century; from Antioch in the West by means of a Greek Christian\23/ propaganda, and from Edessa in the East by means of one which was Syro-Christian. The inference is that the larger towns practically adopted the former, while the country towns and villages went over to the latter. At the same time there was also a Western Syrian movement of Christianity, though it did not amount to much, both in and after the days of Paul of Samosata and Zenobia.

\20/ Even in the Greek cites there were bishops who spoke Greek with a Syrian accent; cp. Socrates, 6.11, on Severianus, bishop of Gabbala: Σεβηριανὸς δοκῶν πεπαιδεῦσθαι, οὐ πάνυ τῇ φωνῇ τὴν Ἑλληνικὴν ἐξετράνου γλῶσσαν· ἀλλὰ καὶ Ἑλληνιστὶ φθεγγόμενος Σύρος ἦν τὴν φωνήν ("Though Severianus was reputed to be cultured, he was very defective in his pronunciation of Greek, since he spoke Greek with a Syrian accent").

\21/ Mommsen, op. cit., p. 451: "The relations between the Greeks and the older population of Syria may be inferred clearly from the local terminology. The majority of the towns and districts bore Greek names, mainly derived, as we have seen, from Macedonia-e.g., Pieria, Anthemusias, Arethusa, Berœa, Chalcis, Edessa, Europos, Cyrrhus, Larissa, Pella. Others were called after Alexander or some member of the Seleucid house -- e.g., Alexandria, Antioch, Seleucis and Seleucia, Apameia, Laodicea, Epiphaneia. The old native names kept their place indeed, as in the case of Berœa (formerly Chalep in Aramaic, or Chalybon), Edessa or Hierapolis (previously Mabug or Bambyce), and Epiphania (previously Hamath or Amathe); but the newer names mostly displaced the old, and only a few districts (e.g., Commagene, Samosata, etc.) did without new Greek names."

\22/ It was in alliance with Greek that Syriac literature first arose; cp. Wright, A Short History of Syriac Literature (1894), and Duval, La Littérature Syriaque (1899).

\23/ The peculiarity of the Antiochene (upper) bishop in early days was that his interest in missions, extending as far as Mesopotamia, was confined to the spread of a Greek Christianity; he did little for the establishment of a national Syrian church. This was where Edessa came in. But I think it too much to say, with Burkitt (Early Eastern Christianity, p. 10), that "the church of Antioch was, so far as we know, wholly Greek. The country districts, where there was a Semitic-speaking population, seem to have remained unevangelized. Where the Jews had settled, the new Jewish heresy followed, but the country-side remained pagan."

The work of conversion, so it would appear, made greater headway in Cœle-Syria, however, than in Phœnicia. No fewer than twenty-two bishops from Cœle-Syria attended Nicæa (two chor-episcopi, observe!), including several who had un-Hellenic names.\24/ Hence we may infer the existence of no inconsiderable number of national Syrian Christians. By about 325 the districts round Antioch seem to have contained a very large number of Christians, and one dated (331) Christian inscription from a suburban village runs as follows: "Christ, have mercy; there is but one God."\25/ In Chrysostom's day these Syrian villages appear to have been practically Christian. Lucian, the priest of Antioch, declares in his speech before the magistrate in Nicomedia (311 C.E.) that "almost the greater part of the world now adheres to this Truth, yea whole cities; even if any of this evidence seems suspect, there is no doubt regarding multitudes of country-folk, who are innocent of guile" ("pars [[136]] paene mundi iam maior huic veritati adstipulatur, urbes integrae, aut si in his aliquid suspectum videtur, contestatur de his etiam agrestis manus, ignara figmenti"); and although this may reflect impressions which he had just received in Bithynia, there was substantial ground for the statement in the local circumstances of Syria.\26/ The numbers of the clergy in 303 throughout Syria are evident from Eus., H.E. 8.6: "An enormous number were put in prison at every place. The prisons, hitherto reserved for murderers and riflers of graves, were now packed everywhere with bishops, priests, deacons, lectors, and exorcists." The data at our command are as follows:-

\24/ Eustathius, Zenobius, Theodotus, Alphius, Basanius, Philoxenus, Salamanes, Piperius, Archelaus, Euphrantion, Phaladus, Zoilus, Bassus, Gerontius, Manicius, Eustathius, Paulus, Siricius, Selencus, Petrus, Pegasius, Bassones.

\25/ In a fragment from a debate with Paul of Samosata, which Pitra (Anal. 3. p. 600 f.) has edited, Malchion is called πρεσβύτερος Ἀλχέων. Is this the name of some unknown place near Antioch?

\26/ If the Didascalia Apost., of which Achelis has just published a scholarly edition (Texte u. Unters. 25.2), belongs to Western Syria, it would supply a large amount of information on the ecclesiastical situation and the spread of local Christianity during the third century. But I think it more likely (though I am not sure) that it belongs to the province of Arabia (see below).

(1) Acts (15.) already mentions churches in Syria besides Antioch.

(2) Ignatius, apropos of Antioch (ad Philad. 10), mentions "churches in the neighborhood" (ἔγγιστα ἐκκλησίαι) which had already bishops of their own.\27/ These certainly included Seleucia, the seaport of Antioch mentioned in Acts 13.4.

\27/ Some scholars, however, place these ἔγγιστα ἐκκλησίαι in Asia Minor.

(3) Apamea was a center of the Elkesaites (cp. above, vol. 1, p. 62).

(4) Dionys. Alex. (in Eus., H.E. 7.5.2) observes that the Roman church frequently sent contributions to the Syrian churches.\28/

\28/ Unfortunately, we know no particulars. Were they town churches or country churches, Greek or Syrian? Had the Persian invasion reduced churches in Syria to the need of begging? Did the Roman bishop intervene of his own accord? In any case, we can understand Aurelian's edict still better when we put it beside this remark of Dionysius: αἱ Συρίαι ὅλαι (i.e., not merely Cœle-Syria)  καὶ ἡ Ἀραβία, οἷς ἐπαρκεῖτε  (you, Romans) ἑκάστοτε καὶ οἷς νῦν ἐπεστείλατε. It appears from this that the Roman church regularly intervened there in cases of distress. This is very significant. If Antioch had already secured a certain authority over the churches of the Eastern provinces, the Roman bishop had also gained an informal influence by means of help in local cases of need, for a generous benefactor always acquires influence and power.

(5) The document of the Antiochene synod of 268 (Eus., 7.30) mentions, in connection with Antioch, "bishops of the [[137]] neighboring country and cities" (ἐπίσκοποι τῶν ὁμόρων ἀγρῶν τε καὶ πόλεων). The towns in the vicinity of Antioch, far and near, must already have had bishops, in all or nearly all cases, if country bishops were in existence. From Eus., 6.12, we learn that by about 200 C.E., there was a Christian community (and a bishop?) at Rhossus which was gravitating towards Antioch.

(6) Two chor-episcopi from Cœle-Syria attended the council of Nicæa. In Martyrol. Hieron. (Achelis, Mart. Hieron., p. 168), a martyrdom is noted as having occurred "in Syria vico Margaritato," as well as another (p. 177 f.) "in Syria provincia regione Apameae vico Aprocavictu," but both these places are unknown.

(7) The number of bishops from Cœle-Syria who were at Nicæa was as follows: Antioch, Seleucia, Laodicea,\29/ Apamea, Raphaneæ, Hierapolis (=Mabug, Bambyce), Germanicia (=Marasch; Theodoret, H.E., 2.25: Γερμανίκεια πόλις ἐστὶν ἐν μεθορίῳ τῆς Κιλίκων καὶ Σύρων καὶ Καππαδοκῶν κειμένη), Samosata, Doliche, Balaneæ (cp. Hom. Clem., 13.1),\30/ Gabula, Zeugma, Larisa, Epiphania, Arethusa,\31/ Neocæsarea (Theodoret, H.E., 1.7: φρούριον δὲ τοῦτο ταῖς τοῦ Εὐφράτου παρακείμενον ὄχθαις), Cyrrhus, Gindaron, Arbokadama (Harba Q'dam, unidentified; cp. Schwartz. Zur. Gesch. der Athan., 6. p. 285), and Gabbala. These towns lay in the most diverse districts of this wide country, on the seaboard, in the valley of the Orontes, in the Euphrates valley, between the Orontes and the Euphrates, and in the north. Their distribution shows that Christianity was fairly uniform and fairly strong in Syria about 325,\32/ as is strikingly shown by the rescript of Daza to Sabinus (Eus., [[138]] H.E. 9.9α.1) -- for we must understand the experiences undergone by the churches of Syrian Antioch and Asia Minor, when we read the emperor's words about σχεδὸν ἅπαντας ἀνθρώπους καταλειφθείσης τῆς τῶν θεῶν θρῃσκείας τῷ ἔθνει τῶν Χριστιανῶν ἑαυτοὺς συμμεμιχότας ("almost all men abandoning the worship of the gods and attaching themselves to the Christian people"). This remark is not to be taken simply as a rhetorical flourish. For after speaking in one place about the first edict of Diocletian, Eusebius proceeds as follows : οὐκ εἰς μακρὸν δ’ ἑτέρων κατὰ τὴν Μελιτηνὴν οὕτω καλουμένην χώραν καὶ αὖ πάλιν ἄλλων ἀμφὶ τὴν Συρίαν ἐπιφυῆναι τῇ βασιλείᾳ πεπειραμένων, τοὺς πανταχόσε τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν προεστῶτας εἱρκταῖς καὶ δεσμοῖς ἐνεῖραι πρόσταγμα ἐφοίτα βασιλικόν ("Not long afterwards, as some people in the district called Melitene and in other districts throughout Syria attempted to usurp the kingdom, a royal decree went forth to the effect that the head officials of the churches everywhere should be put in prison and chains," 8.6.8). Eusebius does not say it in so many words, but the context makes it quite clear that the emperor held the Christians responsible for both of these outbreaks (that in Melitene being unknown to history). This proves that the Christians in Melitene and Syria must have been extremely numerous, otherwise the emperor would never have met revolutionary outbursts (which in Syria, and, one may conjecture, in Melitene also, originated with the army) with edicts against the Christian clergy.

\29/ It is, of course, the Laodicea on the sea-coast that is meant, not that on the Lebanon (S.W. of Emesa).

\30/ For the names, cp. Cuntz ("Stadiasmus Maris Magni") in Texte u. Unters., 29.1. p. 9.

\31/ For the local events in Julian's reign, cp. Theodoret, H.E., 3.7.

\32/ The opposition offered to Christianity varied considerably in the various towns. In Apamea it would seem to have been particularly keen. Even for the period c. 400 C.E., Sozomen (7.15.12) observes: Σύρων δὲ μάλιστα οἱ τοῦ νομοῦ Ἀπαμείας τῆς πρὸς τῷ Ἀξίῳ ποταμῷ· οὓς ἐπυθόμην ἐπὶ φυλακῇ τῶν παρ’ αὐτοῖς ναῶν συμμαχίαις χρήσασθαι πολλάκις Γαλιλαίων ἀνδρῶν καὶ τῶν περὶ τὸν Λίβανον κωμῶν, τὸ δὲ τελευταῖον ἐπὶ τοσοῦτον προελθεῖν τόλμης, ὡς καὶ Μάρκελλον τὸν τῇδε ἐπίσκοπον ἀνελεῖν ("I have been told [[138b]] that the Syrian inhabitants of Apamea often employed the men of Galilee and the Lebanon villages to aid them in a military defence of their temple, and that at last they actually went so far as to slay the local bishop") [who had had the temple demolished].

All that we know about the earlier history of Christianity in the towns is confined to some facts about Laodicea (where bishop Thelymidres was prominent about 250 C.E.; cp. Eus., 6.46; he was followed by Heliodorus, 7.5, and subsequently by Eusebius of Alexandria, and the famous Anatolius, 7.32), Arethusa (cp. Sozom., 5.10; Vit. Const., 3.62), and Samosata (the birthplace of Paul of Antioch, though we do not know if [[139]] he was of Christian birth).\33/ The bishop of Rhossus was not at Nicæa (Rhossus, however, may also be assigned to Cilicia). But, as we have seen above, Rhossus did possess a Christian church about 200 C.E., which came under the supervision of the church at Antioch. There was a Jewish Christian church at Berœa (Aleppo) in the fourth century (cp. p. 101).\34/ The local Gentile Christian church cannot have been important; cp. the experiences of Julian there (Ep. 27., p. 516, ed. Hertlein).

\33/ The spelling of this name as "Thelymitres" occurs in Pape-Benseler (in inscriptions) and in one manuscript of Eusebius.

\34/ One bishop in Syria (προεστώς τις τῆς ἐκκλησίας), Hippolytus relates (in Daniel, p. 230, ed. Bonwetsch; see above, p. 79), by his enthusiastic fanaticism seduced his fellow-members into the wilderness with their wives and children in order to meet Christ. The local governor had them arrested, and they were almost condemned as robbers, had not the governor's wife, who was a believer (οὖσα πιστή), interceded on their behalf. Unfortunately, Hippolytus does not name the locality. -- There were also Novatian churches in Syria (cp. the polemical treatise by Eusebius of Emesa, in the fourth century; Fabius of Antioch had sided with the Novatians). But we do not know where to look for them.

Finally, we have to consider the pseudo-Clementine epistle de Virginitate, which probably dates from the beginning of the third century, either in Palestine or in Southern Syria.\35/ It contains directions for itinerant ascetics, and five kinds of places are enumerated where such people stayed and passed the night (2.1-6), viz.: (1) places with a number of married brethren and ascetics; (2) places with married brethren but without ascetics; (3) places where there were only Christian wives and girls; (4) places where there was only one Christian woman; and (5) places where there were no Christians at all. The third and fourth classes are of special interest. They corroborate what is otherwise well known, viz., that women formed the majority within the Christian communities (cp. above, p. 83). We also get an instructive picture of the state of morals and manners, in the directions given for the behavior of an itinerant ascetic in places where no Christians were to be found at all. This account [for which see vol. 1, pp. 355 f.] relates to small country churches. And their number must have been considerable. Theodoret (Ep. 113.) observes that [[140]] his diocese of Cyrrhus contained 800 parishes. By that time, of course, over a century had passed since the days of Constantine; still, a number of these parishes were certainly earlier than the emperor's reign.

\35/ Cp. my study of it in the Sitzungsberichte d. k. Pr. Akad. Wiss., 1891, pp. 361 f., and Chronologie, 2.133 f. The epistle is only complete in the Syriac version, but we have large fragments of the Greek original.

The rôle of the Syrians in the empire, alongside of the Jews, is well known, especially from the Antonines onwards. Syrian traders ("The Syrians are merchants and the most greedy of men," Jerome, Ep. 130.7) made their way into every province; they even went beyond the bounds of the empire. But Syrian settlers were also to be found engaged everywhere in trade. In their train the missionaries of the Syrian deities, with "mathematici" and sages, pushed westward and northward. Each, as a rule, preached one exclusive god; the religion was a kind of monotheism. The Syrian Greeks were also enamoured of this itinerant and commercial life, as philosophers, orators, litterateurs, and jurists. When one recollects that Antioch was the mother-church of Gentile Christianity, the spread of Christianity can be illustrated even from the standpoint of Syrian trade activity. The Romans and the Greeks did not esteem the Syrians very highly. Cicero reckons then among the nations which were born to be slaves. "Yet even this characteristic guaranteed to them the future," says Renan (Les Apôtres, Germ. ed., p. 308), "for the future belonged then to slaves."